Update on the Conversion Bill

July 13, 2010 / 2 Av 5770 

Dear Friends,

I am writing to bring you up to date on developments over the past 48 hours related to the conversion bill of MK David Rotem. As you may recall from my letter in March, the implications of this bill could be profound for Israel-Diaspora relations.

In a surprise move apparently calculated to enable quick, unopposed passage of his bill, MK David Rotem brought it before the Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee on Monday morning.

After vociferous debate in which many MKs expressed deep-seated opposition to the bill, it nevertheless passed the committee by a vote of 5-4, rallying the support of MKs from Israel Beitenu and the haredi parties Shas and Agudat Yisrael. The bill is expected to go to the Knesset plenum for the three required readings in the coming weeks, though, we hope, not before the Knesset goes into recess in the middle of next week.

When I spoke at the Knesset Law Committee, I explained to the MKs that the passage of this bill would send a loud message to world Jewry that they had been betrayed and that Israel was questioning the legitimacy of their Judaism. Jerry Silverman, President and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America attended the Knesset Law Committee and explained cogently the implications of this legislation both to Knesset members and the media.

Once the bill passed through the committee, our efforts turned toward thwarting the intention to move the bill forward through the Knesset plenum in the few remaining days before the Knesset goes into its summer recess. That very day I had an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as well as with Speaker Reuven Rivlin and cabinet ministers, in order to make sure that no additional surprises are in store for us in the days ahead.

In parallel, the Jewish Agency took to the airwaves and spoke to journalists about the urgent need to prevent a needless rift in the world Jewish community. I can assure you that the issue is becoming as important to Israelis as it is to Diaspora communities. In the past 48 hours, this issue has received a prominent place in the pages of Israel's newspapers and in Hebrew-language radio and television broadcasts, nearly all of which carried our message of the importance of unity in these difficult days.

We continue to meet with key players in the political system, as well as to keep up our efforts in the media. We are committed to ensuring that the Diaspora's position is heard clearly by all members of Knesset and ministers in the government so that they can fully understand the gravity of the consequences of this legislation

We will continue to update you as this important issue moves forward.

Natan Sharansky

For further information contact:
Michael Jankelowitz,
Liaison to the Foreign Press, Jewish Agency for Israel
Mobile: +972-52-6130220;
Voice-mail: +972-2-620-2780
michaelj@jafi.org
website: www.jewishagency.org


 

 

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14 Jul 2010 / 3 Av 5770 0